Éamon de Valera believed that US President John F. Kennedy was an "easy target" after seeing him greet onlookers during his famous visit to Ireland in 1963.
De Valera discussed a wide range of topics ranging from Kennedy's assassination to his historic visit to Ireland when speaking to Joseph E. O'Connor in an Oral History Interview for the John F. Kennedy Library in September 1966.
De Valera, who was President of Ireland at the time of the interview, remarked that it crossed his mind that Kennedy would be an "easy target", describing the former US President as "anxious" to get out and meet people.
"I did think when he was coming in with me from the airport, he was standing up, and it did pass through my mind, curiously enough, what an easy target he would have been. But then, no man can protect himself in a position who wants to meet his people; no man can protect himself if the other people are prepared to give their lives in return," de Valera told O'Connor.
He said he was "dumbfounded" when he learned of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas in November 1963.
JFK got a reception "such as no other visitor has ever received" during his historic four-day visit to Ireland in June 1963, de Valera said.
"He was received with open arms by young and old. He was cheered wherever he
went along the streets. It was a triumphal procession from the airport to up here. He paid his first call here. But we regretted very much that he didn't stay with us here.
"He didn't stay with us because he pointed out that he wanted to be in very close contact all the time with Washington. And that meant that the installation of a great deal of equipment and tons of equipment were necessary to keep that contact."
De Valera said he regretted that he only met Kennedy at a "few luncheons".
De Valera lauded Kennedy for sticking to his principles after being elected president in 1960, describing him as a man of "very noble ideals".
"We were watching to see to what extent he would put these ideas into
practice as President of the United States, now that he was perhaps in the most powerful position that any individual can be in. And we were delighted to see that the ideas weren't mere fancy, that there were things that he really believed in, and that he was going to act up to the highest things that he had spoken of," de Valera said.
He also commended Kennedy for his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and his dealings with the Soviet Union throughout his presidency, describing him as a "man of firm character".
De Valera also said the Irish Government was "pleased" with Kennedy's attitude toward the "race question in the United States".
"We know it's a very, very big problem and a difficult one, one which we were very pleased we didn't have any of the same kind to deal with here. But we recognized that the line which he was taking was the correct one, at least looking at it from the outside.
"I had been in theUnited States I had traveled through the Southern states; I knew what the conditions were as well as the Northern ones. I knew what the situation was over there, and I knew how difficult it would be to give effect to his program. But it was one of these things that had to be tackled sometime, and he was tackling it in what we considered the only way that it could be tackled."
To read the full transcript of de Valera's fascinating interview, click here.
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